It has been a while since a big man in the NBA received a signature shoe either by Adidas, Nike, Jordan or Under Armour. The last time these shoe companies released a signature shoe for a big man was back in 2014 when Adidas released the “D Howard 4”. Since then, four of the major shoe companies have been reluctant to give signature shoes to big men, the question is why?
In the previous article “The Next Face of Jumpman”, the factors that makes a signature player was established and you can quickly see why big men are not getting signature shoes anymore. For a player to receive a signature shoe, they have to be playing at the level of an All-Star and beyond. As the modern game of basketball has shifted towards shooting outside the arc, the game has also become guard orientated and become more advantageous for ball handlers. Players who are able to bring the ball up and down the court are the players who are benefiting most from the change. This decreases scoring opportunities for the traditional big man, hence decreases their overall productivity. This is shown in the player rankings as Bleacher Reports Player Rankings for 2019-20. In the top 10 rankings only 3 big men were present and it is hard to say that all 3 three of the players are traditional big men of the game. Since there are less big men that are performing at a high level, this results in less chance for them to receive signature shoes.
Even if a big man does perform at a high level, it is still difficult for them to receive a signature shoe. Another factor for signature shoes is popularity. Fans are generally attracted to flashy players. Especially young fans want to see moves that they could use when they are playing hoops themselves. They want to see Kyrie Irving’s ball handling, they want to see Steph Curry drain the ball from the logo and they want to see James Harden’s trade mark step-back 3. With these ball handling guard-type players doing flashy plays it is hard for big men who mostly score with their back behind the basket to stand out. This ultimately results in their lack of popularity. Which ultimately prevents big men from releasing signature shoes.
Another reason is down to the shoes itself. Shoes that are built for big men need large amounts of ankle support which results in the shoes becoming heavy and bulky. This extra support is not a required feature for an average non-professional player, who on average would be around 5 foot 10 inches. For some players, they may even feel restrained due to the heavy bulky shoe. Furthermore, the market for players that require these features are too small. Less than 5% of the US population has a height above 6 foot 11 inches (which is around the average height of centers), and bearing in mind that not all 5% of people would be playing basketball, let alone spend $120-$200 sneakers. The release of team shoes are enough to fill the demand for big men who stand as a minority. The lack of opportunity to sell prevents the creation of signature shoes for big men.
However, there is a glimpse of hope for big men as Joel Embiid, the All-star Center for the Philadelphia 76ers, will be getting his own signature shoe from UA. It has been announced that in the Fall of 2020, UA will release his first signature shoe. The All-Star Center has managed to build a solid fan base, largely due to his shooting and handles which is unusual for a player of his size and his large presence in social media which has proven to be beneficial to his campaign to get a signature shoe. Although the days of the traditional big men getting signature shoes are gone, it looks like the modern big men with their handles and shooting might get a shot at a signature shoe at major shoe companies.